Amid the spectacle of Tuesday’s Oval Office row between Donald Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, it’s easy to forget that Trump could have had $25 billion for border security and his precious border wall if he weren’t such a dismally shortsighted and erratic negotiator.
That’s right, in January over cheeseburgers Sen. Schumer offered Trump five times the amount he’s now demanding and won’t get in exchange for permanent legal protections for Dreamers. At the time, Schumer said, “I put that deal on the table in the Oval Office in a sincere effort at compromise. I put the wall on the table in exchange for strong DACA protections. … It was a generous offer.”
It was, actually. Trump was getting something he dearly wanted and Democrats hated for something Democrats dearly wanted and Republicans were mostly okay with. In other words, it was a much bigger trade-off for Democrats than it was for Trump and his Republicans. But Trump wasn’t smart enough—or maybe he was just too petty—to take it.
The immigration concessions from Democrats were not conservative enough, Mr. Trump told Mr. Schumer. The president said he needed more border security measures as well as more enforcement of illegal immigration in parts of the country far from the border.
As the evening wore on, Mr. Schumer got a call from Mr. Kelly that dashed all hopes for a Trump-Schumer deal before the shutdown deadline of midnight. Mr. Kelly, a hard-liner on immigration, the person familiar with the call said, outlined a long list of White House objections to the deal.
Bottom line, Democrats were making the bigger concession and Trump wanted more—thereby killing the compromise entirely. Now Trump is left groveling for $5 billion with zero leverage because he fully owned any shutdown in an outburst he couldn’t control. Shutdowns are never popular and through his bluster, Trump made sure Americans would know exactly who to blame and why.
In the meantime, the resonant images from Trump’s red-faced Oval Office meltdown include a grinning Schumer and Pelosi donning her shades as the Democrats exited the West Wing. They are offering Trump exactly what he ultimately got for border security this year: $1.3 billion. As Schumer pointed out Tuesday, if it was good enough last time around (when Trump could’ve had $25 billion), it should be good enough this time around (when he’s angling for $5 billion).
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.